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"Let me help you," he stated.
It was King Mursili. I was on the middle deck where Heb helped me dry off from my swim in the river. I had noticed several people laughing. It was the first time the Nubians had looked at me in a light that wasn't hateful. I liked the feeling of not being hated.
"You shouldn't be on this tier your highness," I stated.
"Oh nonsense," he stated and grabbed the towel from Heb to dry my back, "It's rare to be so entertained. You are amazing you know that sir. If I had known that you would have jumped in the river, I would have been prepared. Perhaps the shock would have been less, but it wasn't. You stunned me. Then in went your slave here. He is a good slave... you know."
He was talking about Heb. Heb had jumped in the water after me to save my life. It was something that I didn't understand either. Here was Heb...someone who had despised me jumping into the water to help save me.
"He isn't my slave. He's just a servant."
"No difference," Mursili excused me and grabbed onto my arm, "You're amazing you know that? You aren't much of a swimmer but that dive was excellent. We, Hittite, love the provactive. You are the most interesting person I've met in Nubia."
"And I have a question for you sir...the king doesn't answer...who exactly are you to him at his point in time?"
"I am the king's..."
"His what? His lover?"
"We aren't lovers yet," I told him.
King Mursili's face lit up. He seemed so interested in me. I watched as he continued to study my face. He took the towel off my back and still stood there staring for a moment or two. I didn't say anything in return to him but just his presence being there seemed strong.
"You should come visit my homeland," he stated, "It's a very beautiful and rich land. It's very similar to Nubia. You would enjoy it..."
don't travel much..."
"I insist," he stated.
His voice was rich with meaning as he stated it. I just nodded my head and agreed.
"In that case it'd be my honor."
"The king won't miss you. Once we get to his temple I'm sure the gift that I am bestowing upon him will peak his interest for a while."
How could I refuse him? I knew he wasn't the reason I came to the palace. He wasn't at all but I didn't know exactly what the right way was to reject a king without having your head cut off. I didn't want to take the chance learning either.
I returned the upper deck once he had finished talking to me. He went to go finish being entertained by some dancers from the kingdom. His children and wives were already being entertained by them as well as members of the Emeric Dynasty.
The king wasn't one of them.
He stood as though in a deep thought leaning over a rail on boat. His positioning was the same as usual. His stance was never that of a king. It was always very off and "cute" but not royal at all. He knew I was getting close. I could tell by the way his chest sunk in a little bit.
His eyes turned to me, "He likes you doesn't he?"
I wasn't going to pretend like I didn't know he was talking to King Mursili. Mursili wasn't exactly trying to hide the fact that he was flirting with me the whole night. By following me to the lower deck just to see if I was ok just put wrapped the mummy.
"I believe so."
"He is so promiscuous, that one," Taharqa started out his face all of a sudden getting evil, "I bring not only him but all his 4 wives and 9 children to my country. I feed him lies about how I'd like to continue this relationship that he built with my father. Still he doesn't have enough. He goes after what belongs to me."
Taharqa was angry. I could see him pacing. He looked unsettled. Luckily no one seemed to notice...no one but Nyla who was always watching and anticipating closely.
"I told you to just call me Taharqa and stop this bowing thing," he insisted.
I didn't know exactly what he was asking. For a king to ask someone like me not to bow to him was very surprising. Then again all that he has done for me so far was already surprising.
is best, Taharqa to build an alliance with the Hittite.
You don't know when you'll need them.
You have no way of telling when they may
become of use to you."
"That is what the Vizier and advisors say," he continued, "I still doubted it. I guess...your word does mean so much to me. So I'll listen...for you."
I felt all of a sudden like I was important. I smiled back and watched as he leaned over to me. His wife was not that far away and she was looking at us. Taharqa didn't even notice though. Taharqa grabbed onto my arms and held them tightly into his.
All of a sudden everyone disappeared.
Nyla disappeared. Chenen disappeared.
King Mursili disappeared.
The boat disappeared.
We were standing on the Nile. We were walking on water. Taharqa's eyes made me feel like this. I knew I was really falling for him even though I tried to fight it.
"Today I noticed something. I noticed today when he looked at you that he was looking at you wrong. No one could look at you like I do. He can't touch you. Skin isn't skin unless it's caressed by the touch of someone who cares. I'll break him and his country if he dares to cross that line. I swear it. I may sound jealous but it's for a reason. And when he opened his mouth I thought he was going to say something before I did. I hope he didn't because he would have done himself a great disservice. He can't phrase his words the right way. He can't mean it from his heart. I hope he didn't say it because no one can say I love you like I can. I love you."
He said it.
He said it.
He said it.
My heart stopped a moment as we kissed. We kissed each other and it wasn't a light peck. He grabbed my face and started to tongue me down. I could feel my inner thighs getting wet with anticipation. I could feel my entire mind groveling to the thought of doing it again.
And when I turned they were all watching. They were all standing there watching us and the look on everyone's faces was all worth it. Who could say they kissed the king in public after he confessed love? None of them could say that. Not even his wife could. Hell I had hardly seen Taharqa look at Nyla once since he had gotten on the boat. He hadn't even pretended to enjoy her company but here he was holding my hand and looking into my eyes and smiling as though he was the happiest person in the world.
We had sailed up the Nile. I was alone again while Taharqa went onto do other things. I didn't care though. I didn't give a damn that people were whispering. I could care less. My heart was throbbing and I was floating.
Don't fall...mother had said.
It was too late. I was in love with Taharqa. It wasn't a pretending. I wasn't seducing him any longer. He had seduced me. He had just as much power over him as I had over him and I was admitting that. I hated how vulnerable love could make someone become. It could make the most ordinary of men become insane. I wondered if Taharqa was driving me insane now. He wouldn't do it purposely of course but then again here I was sitting on a boat when my life could possibly be in danger at any time. Someone had snuck into my house and strangled my nanny thinking that it was my mother. I was in great danger yet all I could do was smile...
He held me there on the boat in front of everyone. Even when the dancing was over and nothing could act as a diversion to the others. They were forced to see him there holding me as though it was the most ordinary thing in the world. He said he loved me. The idea was the most brilliant of things.
I looked at Nyla's face. At first our eyes connected and then when her eyes fell before mine I knew that she had been defeated.
"Sir...we've docked," Chief Si Ren stated.
Si Ren escorted me personally away from the King and to the middle docks to be reunited with Heb. I saw how tenderly he put his hand on my shoulder. It was with much more protection then before. Perhaps it was because now he he'd seen how important he was to the King. Now they all saw how important I was to the king.
King Mursili seemed anxious, "Come on, come on to the temple. There lies my great gifts to Egypt."
We followed behind King Mursili's entourage. The king kept me close. For the first time the others provided space for me to walk. It was as though I had earned their respect. I turned to my right and saw Nyla's eyes. They were burning into me. She wanted to say something to me. I was wondering what it was. Was it jealousy? I would allow her to grovel into it.
I knew one day she would bow to me.
I smiled, "My queen, are you feeling well?"
She nodded silently and faded into the background slightly. Yes, my heart was dancing right now. I was on a cloud. I stood behind him as his wife should while his wife trailed behind like a servant.
I wondered if they noticed! Did they notice? Could they see me now? I was shining brighter than ever before. I was glowing. They were marching us through the night with these well lit torches where priests were gathered around but they didn't need these torches. I could lead the way to the Temple of Ra. My glory was forever engraved in this moment. I walked behind the king. The king had announced his love for me. I hadn't even done anything with him. I hadn't even lain with him. I hadn't even been lit with a light yet I was brighter than any star that shown on the Sahara. I was Nubia's brightest star. Oh, they'd love me. They'd see me...forever...
But was it enough...
I walked with the entourage to the great temple. It was everything Mursili had imagined. The statue that had been a gift from the Hittite king guarded the threshold. It was a great sitting figure of the hawk god. I wasn't even the size of a small toe on the statue. It hurt my neck to look at the top of it. It was gigantic and in all aspects fit for a king.
"My gift lies inside," King Mursili stated.
"What gift could be more grand then your statue?" Taharqa asked as he followed behind Mursili.
I could tell Taharqa wasn't too moved by the act of kindness. While the rest of us were in awe of the pure size of the statue, Taharqa hadn't even managed to break his neck and attempt to look at the top. He glared straight, sometimes at me or completely at the floor. Mursili noticed. Everyone noticed. I wondered if his rudeness had anything to do with me. Still everyone maintained status quo, acting as though they hadn't noticed it. Mursili's smile didn't even waver.
The Hittite king then guided us into the Temple of Ra which was so isolated this far north of the city. It's back was to the desert. The bodyguards went first clearing. I could tell they were still very weary of the Hittite king. I didn't find Mursili to be a threat though. The young king seemed far too innocent to be a threat. He smiled too much and seemed too happy. The fact that he was ignoring Taharqa's rudeness didn't seem to matter either.
"A wife if you should accept," Mursili stated, "My sister...Fatine. The fair maiden of the East..."
"Fatine..." I heard someone gasp.
The name was known. It was a horrid mutter as though something had come of great appall. I turned to see it had come from Nitokare. Beside her Nyla and several others had an expression of shock across their faces that I'd never could have imagined. The look in Nyla's eyes...it was fear. It was FEAR! Good god. It wasn't the look of defeat or annoyance that she had given me. No, Nyla was horrified.
"I am most gracious of this my good Mursili," Taharqa stated, "I can't take another wife though. You see, I am just married. Right now my kingdom doesn't need another Queen."
He was right. He was recently married to Nyla. It was too much. Why have another woman tied to him who would be ignored for me? Why have another woman shooting me jealous eyes and trying to combat for his attention?
"I spoke with your Vizier," Mursili stated, "He advised this marriage be necessary. He stated it would help unite our bloodlines and secure an everlasting alliance with our two families. Isn't this what you want? A blood alliance."
king nodded, "Well..."
Chenen quickly added, "The beauty of Fatine has spread across many lands. Some say she the most beautiful woman in the world. Wasn't she married off though?"
Now all of a sudden I knew what Nyla was feeling. My heart jumped in my chest.
"Her husband recently died from a chariot accident."
"Please!" Nyla stated all of a sudden, "Chariot accident? He was murdered. He was murdered so that Fatine can become a widow! King you couldn't be considering such a thing. You would marry a woman who has already been married before? She's a harlot! She's used!"
The Queen defaced herself. I could see the embarrassment sinking into her as she quickly put her hand over her mouth. She had completely forgotten her place. She wasn't even the Great Royal Wife of the King and she so quick to disrespect a princess of Hittite in front of her brother.
"What's the meaning of this?" King Mursili stated.
Our eyes completely were in shock.
Taharqa looked over to Nyla, "Remove yourself..."
"I'm so sorry..."
"REMOVE YOURSELF!" he barked in a tone that I'd never thought could come from Taharqa. Nyla quickly bowed and scampered away from the room embarrassed. Nitokare chased after Nyla and they disappeared back into the boat. I was embarrassed for her. Damn, how great women fell. She wasn't as composed as she allowed herself to be.
still in that moment, she was real. She was showing her real emotions and her
real feelings. Why should she be
punished for being who she wanted to be?
Why couldn't she scream when she wanted to?
"I've never been so disrespected," Mursili stated, "And I wished to call this house kin to my own? A woman who you've chosen for wife dare disrespect me in such a way?"
Taharqa bowed, "Please forgive us. It has been a long day."
"A long day? Perhaps an alliance wasn't the wisest idea. I bring a statue and you barely look at it. It doesn't impress you. I've brought the most beautiful woman in our land and offered her to be your bride. You refuse her as well. I believed the Nubians to be a great and humble kingdom. However it seems like you've adopted the pride and arrogance of the Egyptians."
"Arrogance?" Taharqa's eyes gleamed, "You are on my soil Mursili and you dare..."
I couldn't believe it was my voice. I stood between the two kings with my hands spread out wide separating them. It was the only thing I knew how to do to diffuse the situation and I was way out of place.
"Menice stand back," Taharqa instructed.
"I will, but please let us not allow Nyla's words to speak for the rest of the country," I stated, "We all remember all the Hittite and Nubian blood that mixed on the battlefield against the Egyptians. Now we are together in triumph. There is no enemy here. We have defeated that enemy a long time ago. We have conquered that enemy. The enemy is gone."
I had spoken out of word.
I had stalled an immediate request from the king.
I had spoken so loosely that I wanted to take it back almost immediately before I was whipped or worse. Yet all Mursili did was grab my hand as I attempted to step back like Taharqa requested.
"You are wise," Mursili stated and all of a sudden a smile returned to his face, "It seemed like two kings can be humbled by a young man."
Taharqa shook his head, "Yes...honestly. That's why I love him."
"And you are wise to do so."
"I will take your offer King Mursili. I will take your sister as a wife so that our two kingdoms will be united! Now let's see this legendary beauty."
What had I done?
Damn it. I had spoken too soon. I tried to fake a smile as Mursili continued to praise me. He continued to carry on some sort of conversation with me and I smiled and responded. It was all automatic though. My eyes were on Taharqa. Nyla had something to fear. She had something to fear for a reason. The king had gone to see the woman who would soon to be his bride and I had made sure to secure that.
We had been sent home without seeing Fatine. The king supposedly wanted time to "get to know her". It sent shivers up my spine. It sent shivers that he would just send me home without giving me a proper good night. Hadn't he been concerned of MY wellbeing? I wanted to beat myself up that night and the night after when he didn't come to my room.
He had supposedly been praying at the temple of Ra in the North. He was going through a spiritual revelation. Or perhaps he was spending time with her!
I tried to calm myself and ignore the concerns that were rising through my mind.
A week had gone by...
is another gift...from King Mursili," Heb stated, "I
should send this one back."
"Why...bring it in?"
Heb went to the door and asked the men to come. Mursili had sent me things every day. He hadn't written anything with them but the gifts were becoming more and more lavish. He had bought me exotic gifts. They were large golden trinkets and things that seemed without worth. I could have bought out my entire village with the things he bought me.
The men dragged the box in and opened it.
"Oh my god!"
I watched as a little cub came out of the box. It was a lion's cub.
The man at the door added, "This is a gift from the king. I am to be a trainer to the cub. The king has paid me extensively to make sure that the cub grows up to be a tamed lioness. King Mursili suggests that you name the cat affectionately."
"Heb, he bought me a cat!"
"We should have to take it away. The king would not allow such a thing," Heb stated and shook his head, "You can take it with you."
"No! I'll keep it. Taharqa will be convinced. Is it a girl? I will call her Aya...after my nanny."
Aya was so beautiful. She was a golden brown color and her neck was wrapped in a golden collar. She made her way to me quickly playfully scratching lightly at my shawl until I reached town and picked her up. She was a newborn, probably just a week or two. She was so small I could cup her easily and hold her in a basket.
"Don't you realize that the King will be angry if he returns sees all of this?" Heb continued to counter me, "Hasn't it occurred to you that he may be jealous?"
"Let him be. He's off with his legendary beauty."
I cuddled Aya. For the first time I wasn't worried about it. This had to be the meaning of power. This little lioness had come into my life and was evening out the scores. I wasn't concerned for some reason. I wasn't concerned about what Taharqa was doing. At the same time I wasn't infatuated with Mursili in any means. I was just concerned with this beautiful cat.
It was the first thing that I had to take care of. It was the first thing that seemed to really matter.
Two weeks had gone without seeing Taharqa.
On the third I was completely oblivious to his absence. I was concerned with getting Aya to follow me. Her trainer was very good. He came over often teaching her how to do little things. He said he'd seen many tamed lions in the palaces of Egypt with the past king. It was a sign of power. It was a sign of respect. Why shouldn't I have a tamed lion? Wasn't I powerful?
No...not yet...but I would be.
I walked the gardens with Aya. We made our way to the end of the isles where the hyacinth grew. I hadn't known that I wasn't alone until I saw how Aya reacted. She turned around quickly and retreated underneath my feet. She was so quick and delicate at the same time.
I turned to see Nyla.
She was alone. Completely alone and it seemed for the first time. We were in the palace ground but still it was rare to see someone so alone and so vulnerable. She didn't approach me too quickly though. She held her distance and I figured she knew that I didn't take too kindly with her.
"My Queen," I stated.
"You can cut the formalities. We all know whatever status you have no you are above bowing," she stated crossing her hands, "I haven't come to apologize but I've come to talk to you."
"We have a common enemy you and I..."
I could hardly hold back laughing. The woman that had made my life at the palace miserable for this long was now coming at me saying on "common" ground. I laughed with my eyes though and my face just tried to fix up some look of confusion.
"What do you mean?" I muttered.
Nyla crossed her arms, "Fatine is a threat. We cannot allow the King to marry that woman."
I shake my head, "I have no control over the King and what he does. She's no threat to me. I don't even know her."
is beautiful," Nyla stated, "Beautiful isn't the
word. I've seen her with my own
eyes. The legends are true.
She will seduce the king.
With her influence the King will be under the
rule of the Hittite. That is what Mursili is trying to do.
Don't you see that? The king will
fall in love with this woman."
The word crept up behind me and shook me.
"I'm sorry to hear about your marital situation..."
"Please stop the shit," Nyla growled impatiently, "I am an educated and powerful woman. That is what I value in life. I never valued love. I accept that he loves you. You can take the man. He can't marry you. However if she marries him and he loves her, he can make her the Great Consort. She can have everything that I worked so hard to gain."
"So you married a man knowing he doesn't love you."
will understand with time that my role as Queen is for the people of Nubia," Nyla continued, "I am
married to Nubia whoever that may be and for the time
he is Nubia.
The country is my concern not him.
However things are getting...complicated."
She acknowledged it. This whole time she acknowledged that Menice didn't love her and that he loved me.
"What do you want from me?"
"You have to win him back. You have to hold his heart," she stated, "Or else Fatine will get everything. She will win. She will win the heart that belongs to you. She will win the title that belongs to me. "
"Obviously I don't get a title so what do I win?"
"Complete support," she stated, "As you know Nubia loves me. They will support who I support. You will be accepted in the palace. You have my word. Your days here will become sweeter and less lonely. You will be able to love the King as hard as you want and everyone will accept. And we will have harmony in Nubia."
"Think about it," she stated, "I have a plan. However I'll need you. I'll get back to you on it..."
The woman was clever. She was amazingly clever. She had already made a plan to get rid of Fatine before Fatine had even stepped foot in Kerma.
I thought about it. What did I have to lose by siding with her? Nothing. What did I have to gain? I gained her trust. I gained the acceptance of the royals. I gained a sense of security not having to always look behind my back for a dagger.
Still I hesitated...
Nyla was not to be trusted. None of these people were to be trusted. They all had their own schemes. They all looked out for themselves. Whose to say that once she got rid of Fatine she wouldn't take out her other threat as well?
Rumor had spread that the King had finally brought the woman back with him. Heb showed me how to get to the spa where the woman was said to be. Many had gathered around to just get a glimpse of her face and see if the gossip was true. Was Fatine really as beautiful as people said she was.
As we made our way to the back fountain where Fatine was supposedly located, I caught a glimpse of Nyla's balcony. It was high above. She was standing there with her handmaidens at her side. She looked at me and was fanning herself with a peacock feather.
It was almost as though she was trying to say something to me.
I didn't know what it was though.
I ignored it until got up close to the fountain where I saw someone laying there. She was lying on her side against the marble fountain. She didn't seem surprised at all that people were gathered around her just staring. She was completely unmoved by the idea.
That was when she turned around and all of a sudden the words of Nyla came floating back into my mind and they all made sense.
Flawless. She was a beauty like I had never seen. Her skin was a deep honey complexion. Her skin didn't have a single flaw on it. It seemed naturally glossy. It was almost as though she was glowing. It was almost like she was an angel.
Then you got to her face. She had the most flawless face I'd ever seen. She made the most beautiful women in Kerma look so...normal. She had the face of a Goddess. It seemed Hathor herself had come down and possessed the body of a mere mortal. It seemed like someone had carved her face out of some grand design. She had perfectly curved face and slightly tipped eyes. Her nose arched perfectly on her face. Her lips always stayed slightly separate as though she was kissing the air. Her movements were delicate and quaint.
Nyla's words drifted into mind.
Fatine will get everything. She will win. She will win the heart that belongs to you. She will win the title that belongs to me.